There has been much debate as to whether backlinks are still important, and whether they have any impact on your SEO ranking, and the answer is a resounding yes. In a time where search engine ranking is becoming a science and a spot on the first page near the top is worth its weight in gold, backlinks are just as important as they ever were – if not more so.
Although Google’s roll out of Penguin 4.0 made building backlinks harder, this practice still remains one of the most effective ways to rank highly and to drive targeted traffic to your site. Therefore, maintaining the health of backlinks is essential, and regular audits can help you pin point any issues before they affect your search engine rankings.
Keeping Tabs on your Link Profile
Just as a high-quality backlink can boost your visibility, a poor quality link can put it at risk, and reduce the chances of it ranking in Google. While Google is by no means the only search engine you want to rank in, it is the most popular and it has the highest standards to meet too.
An audit will pick up poor quality backlinks, and it will also see if any of the backlinks on your site are spammy- something that you will pay a heavy price for. If you keep your backlink profile clean, you’ll avoid negative SEO and be able to optimize your results quickly and easily.
In the past, Google used to ignore bad backlinks, but now they penalize sites for this, and without regular audits, you could find yourself floundering on page 12 or worse. If you want to remain completive in the web space then removing bad links fast is essential and if possible, avoid adding them in the first place. If you have already been penalized then cleaning up your backlinks is the first step on the road to recovery. If you need a helping hand in working out the case of a penalty, there are web penalty indicators such as Fe International that can tell you what your infringement was.
Maintaining Link Profile Health
Sometimes having spammy backlinks is not your fault, and your website may have been hacked to include links you never intended on having in the first place. You may also find that over time, web masters change the content on the pages that you have back linked to without your knowledge, thus affecting your backlink profile
Fortunately, there are a number of free tools that will help you ascertain the health of your backlink profile, and these should be used on a regular basis. Semrush, SEOMoz, Ahrefs, Google Analytics and Majestic are just some of the many available options and can help you reduce a loss of traffic simply by checking the status of your profile. Google Analytics is the preferred option of many, and you’ll know if you’ve been penalized by Google almost immediately, as your web traffic is tracked in real time and you’ll see a major loss.
The longer your site has bad backlinks, backlinks that are spammy or have been added by hackers, or simply poor quality links that don’t add value, the more you’ll be penalized. As it takes on average between 3 to 6 months to be ranked by Google- depending on the competitiveness of the industry and the strength of the keywords, losing any sort of ranking can hit a site hard.
It’s not just that you’ll lose ranking, it’s that other sites will be able to overtake you, pushing you further down the ladder, and further down the page, and reclaiming your spot nearer the top can take months, years or simply never happen.
Act Without Prompting
With backlink audits it’s a good idea to act before you need to. Prevention, in this case, is better than cure, especially if you are in a highly competitive industry that relies on ranking well online. General maintenance is always a good idea and checking your backlink profile weekly or even daily can save you time and money in the long run. If you are unsure of any links it is best to remove them, rather than risk leaving them in, and with the abundance of tools so freely available there is no reason why this monitoring process shouldn’t take place.
The removal of backlinks may not always be simple, and it is a process that can take time and patience, but it is worthwhile. Asking others to remove backlinks may be the more frustrating part of a link audit process, but it is one that is necessary. If for some reason you cannot get rid of a link but are aware that it may cause you to be penalized, you can make use of Google’s Disavow tool. This tool is the last resort, and it allows you to disavow a bad link, but it will only be implemented if you have proof that you’ve tried to remove the backlink and failed.
The importance of auditing your backlink profile cannot be underestimated, and if you value your search rankings and want to remain competitive in the online sphere, it is an essential activity that should be performed regularly.